Month in Books: April 2015

Fair warning: I was finishing off my Creative Writing portfolio in April, so there’s going to be a lot of stuff about writing. Sorry but also kind of not sorry.

How to Write your First Novel – Sophie King – 4 stars It is what you think it is. It’s quite a light read with some good advice – nothing too earth-shattering, but I’m glad I picked it up nonetheless.

Servant Leadership for Slow Learners – J. David Lundy – 5 stars I loved this book! It’s another non-fiction thing, talking about leadership in a Christian context. It’s not quite as sassy as the title might suggest, but it is challenging.

How I Found the Write Path – Carrie Butler – 4 stars I love this idea – it’s a compilation of letters from authors to their younger selves, giving advice on writing, publishing and just the chaos of being a creative person. It’s lovely and inspiring – worth a read if you’re interested in writing yourself! Also, dat pun.

The Wisdom of C.S. Lewis – Brian Sibley – 5 stars This is basically a tiny hardback book full of illustrated C.S. Lewis quotes. I love it.

How to Write Better Essays – Bryan Greetham – 4 stars Again…this is exactly what you think it is. There’s a lot of good advice in this, but I happen to passionately despise writing conventional essay plans, so I took the whole thing a bit bitterly. Still, 4 stars.

Akarnae – Lynette Noni – 4 stars I’ve actually been following this lady’s blog for a while, so when I saw that her book had come out, I knew I wanted to give it a try! I was not disappointed. This is a young adult fantasy novel, and it’s just wonderful. I had so much fun reading it! I left it a bit long to write a review though, so I’ll be giving it another read and reporting back 😛

Just Write: The Virgin Guide to Telling Your Story – Gabrielle Mander – 3 stars I kind of disliked this book, just for the heavy reliance on genre fiction. To paraphrase an exact quote: “if you don’t write in a clear cut genre no-one will read your stuff”. Well, excuse you. I happen to hate categories like that in literature: let your story breathe! (Other than that, this book was quite alright)

Writing: A User’s Manual – David Hewson – 3 stars More writing stuff. If I’m honest, I don’t really remember anything about this one, but past Dani gave it three stars, so…there you go.

True Worship – Vaughan Roberts – 5 stars I read so much non fiction this month! This book is a little gem about…er…true worship. Do you have to go to church to worship? (Clue: nope)

A Caribbean Mystery – Agatha Christie – 5 stars I think by this point, I was all non-fictioned out, so returned to my trusty Agatha Christie. It’s a Miss Marple story, and I freaking love that little old lady.

The Silver Chair – C.S. Lewis – 5 stars This is usually considered the fourth book in the Narnia series, and it’s my absolute favourite (after The Horse and His Boy. So, like, second favourite). Children’s fantasy can be a bit touch and go, but this series is the actual best.

Yes Please – Amy Poehler – 4 stars I never read celebrity autobiographies, so this was new to me! I loved the tone of the book, and it made me chuckle a lot. It was more than just a comedy thing though; I felt like Ms. Poehler put a lot of herself into the book, and it was really touching.

The Virgin Suicides – Jeffrey Eugenides – 3 stars I’d heard from a lot of people that this book was really good, and I could appreciate that it was well-written…but mostly I thought it was creepy. Everyone is a stalker, please stop.

V for Vendetta – Alan Moore – 4 stars This is a British Dystopian thing, and it’s a real downer. Good writing though, so four stars. Even if it is also a bit creepy.

Chosen – Ted Dekker – 3 stars If you’ve been around for a while, you know that I have a lot of love for Ted Dekker. This is one of his children’s/YA fantasy novels, and it was a good strong…average. I like his adult stuff better, sorry!

Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? – Edward Albee – 4 stars A friend recommended this to me after I complained about not understanding Postmodernist literature, and I have to admit: it’s a pretty fantastic play. If a little sad.

And (finally!) that’s the end of what I read in April. Sorry it was a kind of boring month – I promise May got more interesting! If you’ve read any of the books I mentioned, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Advertisements

C is for Christian Fiction

I feel like the label ‘Christian Fiction’ can be a bit off-putting. Admittedly, I’ve read my fair share of this genre that I found severely lacking, but there is also a great deal of really really good content out there!

This is going to be My Guide to the Christian Novel (for Newbies)!

‘Christian fiction’ is a really broad title – like ‘classic’, ‘YA’ or ‘Adult’, you’re inevitably going to find a whole spectrum of sub-genres to explore, and by extension, there’s every chance you’ll find something you enjoy!

As with every genre, there’s going to be stuff you hate, and stuff you can’t put down, but I’m going to go ahead an recommend a few titles that I really loved.

The Chronicles of Narnia – C.S. Lewis Duh. I feel like this series makes its way onto every list I’ve ever made, but I don’t care. For those of you yet to read these books, it’s a timeless children’s fantasy series of seven short novels, with a little bit of allegory and a lot of awesome. Go.

Obsessed – Ted Dekker Do you like adult thriller novels about history and finding out about your family roots and adventure? Great, you can just go grab this. Right now.

The Wormling Series – Jerry B Jenkins and Chris Fabry This is another fantasy series, slightly allegorical and really beautifully narrated. I’d put these more in the YA section than children’s just because of length and a few scarier scenes. I’ve read all the books multiple times, and really loved them!

The Pilgrim’s Progress – John Bunyan This is a bit of a classic. Written during Bunyan’s spell in prison, this book is an allegory of the spiritual journey of a Christian. There’s monsters and kidnapping and battles and stuff, so it pretty much caters for you whatever you’re into. Worth a read!

The Dopple Ganger Chronicles – G.P. Taylor I can’t get enough of this series! They’re ingenious combinations of the graphic novel, conventional prose and beautiful typography (coined ‘illustra-novellas’, if you were interested). I love the art, and the stories…just everything. there are three books at the moment, and I’ve given all of them five stars so far.

That’s all from me! There’s so much variety out there in this genre, and I guess I just wanted to encourage you to explore.

Also, any recommendations you can leave me will be much appreciated!

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day.

~Dani

Social Networks Book Tag

Just in case you’re not aware, BookTube is the little corner of YouTube where people create videos and channels completely related to books. A popular feature of these videos is ‘tags’, so I thought I’d translate a few onto my blog, as a fun way to share some different books.

Today’s tag was originally created by faultydevices, and is made up of questions based around a few social networking sites.

Twitter: A book you want to share with the world

My choice for this one has to be one of Markus Zusak’s lesser known novels: I am the Messenger. It’s a contemporary and is – in a way – maturer than the Book Thief, but it’s just as fantastic (and a little shorter!).

I Am the Messenger

Facebook: A book you really enjoyed that was recommended to you by someone else

Christopher Paolini’s Eragon! I’d already seen the movie, but was a little put off by the size of the book. It wasn’t until my friend literally pressed her copy of the book into my hands that I got down to reading it – and it was completely worth it! A juicy fantasy series that is both thoughtful and action-packed.

Eragon

Tumblr: A book you haven’t raved much about on your [blog]

I really enjoyed The Knife of Never Letting Go by Patrick Ness, although I’m pretty sure I’ve yet to mention it here. It’s a YA post-apocalyptic novel that is mind-blowingly creative and incredibly powerful.

The Knife of Never Letting Go

MySpace: A book you don’t plan on re-reading

Hmm…there are quite a few! I read The Alchemist by Paolo Coelho and really didn’t enjoy it. I found the story a little lame, and wasn’t feeling the philosophy. That’s not to say it’s a bad book; just that it definitely wasn’t for me.

The Alchemist

Instagram: A book with a gorgeous, picture-worthy cover

I love my copy of Breakfast with the Nikolides by Rumer Godden – just look at those colours! This one’s about a European family moving to India, and how they adapt.

Breakfast with the Nikolides

YouTube: A book you wish could be made into a movie

Again, there are a few! I’m going to go with Obsessed by Ted Dekker, just because I think it’s so original and has the potential to be really screen-friendly. It’s the story of an American Jew who is called back to Europe to re-discover his past. (I realise that synopsis doesn’t make it sound very original – you’ll just have to trust me on this one!)

Obsessed (TD)

Skype: A book with characters you wish you could talk to instead of just read about

My pick is going to be The Infernal Devices trilogy by Cassandra Clare. This is historical fiction mixed with urban fantasy, but for me it was the characters that made these books shine.

Clockwork Angel

And that’s my first tag! If you’ve read any of the books I mentioned, let me know your thoughts! f you fancy doing the tag too (or have already done it) feel free to link your post, I’d love to read it.

Would you have chosen similar books to answer these questions, or do you disagree completely?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Can I Change the World?

How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world.

-Anne Frank

We live in an imperfect world. That’s not really debatable. We can argue over the whys and wherefores another time, but we all look around and know that many things are just not right.

It stands to reason, then, that change is not only necessary but inevitable; humans don’t always make the best decisions, but there’s always someone who burns with justice, and who will stand up and tackle serious and – if we’re honest – intimidating issues.

I don’t know about you, but for me great people like William Wilberforce and Martin Luther King Jr spring to mind when the topic of changing the world crops up. What I love about this Anne Frank quote is that she not only assumes that everyone wants to change the world, but that everyone can.

 I’m going to go ahead and be honest here: I’m bad at public speaking. Big groups of people make me nervous. I’m not great at arguing or debating, I have a quiet voice, and I can barely spell ‘committal’, let alone put it into action. I’m a reader. I like writing, and watching movies, and chats over hot chocolate. I’m not exactly cut out to be a ‘world-changer’.

Cue some wise words from Persian poet Rumi:

Raise your words, not your voice. It is the rain that grows the flowers, and not the thunder.

Words are POWERFUL. Non-fiction books have played a huge part in sharing knowledge and combating ignorance.

My real passion, though, lies in fiction, and I’m a firm believer that novels can have just as much impact on society as purely informative books. 

I could list so many books that are comments on society: ‘Les Miserables’ by Victor Hugo, ‘Oliver Twist’ by Charles Dickens, and ‘Trash’ by Andy Mulligan to name but a few, and don’t get me started on the Dystopians! Literature is practically defined by its power to challenge the way we think and view things.

It’s not just blatant social comments that can be challenging; books like ‘I am the Messenger’ by Markus Zusak and ‘Divergent’ by Veronica Roth offer ethical messages that provoke readers to double check what they stand for and strive for in the realms of personality traits and how they relate to other people.

Writers like V.E. Schwab (Vicious) and Ted Dekker (Showdown, Burn) force us to look carefully at our stances on right and wrong, and inspire us to keep fighting.

All of this is incredibly inspiring (and, I would argue, essential), but where do books like ‘The Rosie Project’ (Graeme Simsion) fit in? How does a sweet, humourous and fun piece of literature in any way contribute to society?

Did you know happiness is really important? “A joyful heart is good medicine”, as Proverbs 17:22 will tell you. As a writer, and in ‘real life’ as well, I can tell you that there is nothing I find more up-lifting than to make someone else smile, especially if they’re going through a hard time. This summer I’m going to be heading to South Africa, where I’ll be partaking in charity work among people affected by AIDs, and I’m being completely honest when I say that if I can make one orphaned kid smile, the entire trip will be worth it.

As a famous (fictional) author once said:

Some infinities are bigger than other infinities. 

(That was John Green as Peter van Houten, by the way)

So no, I don’t think a reader/writer like me is ever going to impact every single individual on this planet, but I don’t think that was ever expected. I genuinely believe that giving a pep talk, buying someone hard on cash coffee, and even just being with someone who’s struggling changes their worlds, and the individuals matter so much.

Part of being human means we are part of what is – for lack of better words – a team. Our stories interlock and twist and you don’t know how that fiver you put in the charity jar could make a difference for someone. You don’t know how that sentence you wrote, or that book you recommended could impact someone’s perspective of life.

After all, the definition of change is this: “to make the form, naturecontent, future course, etc., of (something) different from what it is or from what it would be if left alone.” Personally, I endeavour to be one of those people who don’t leave injustices alone. Yeah, that homeless guy deserves a sandwich today. Yes, that girl who sits alone should be offered company. Yes, I should treasure the people in my life because we’re all temporary and fleeting and brimming with the potential to be meaningful and live meaningfully, and I don’t want to just grow that in myself but in others.

I want to be part of a sharing world; a world that is communicative and connected, and I’d say literature is a fantastic place to start.

So thank you Anne Frank and Rumi: I’m going to add my raindrops to the river, and I’m going to start now. Whose little infinity can you impact today?

Thanks for reading, and have a lovely day!

~Dani

Month in Books: January 2014

I read a lot of books that don’t even get a passing mention here, despite my having potentially really enjoyed them. What I’ve decided to do is write a quick summary of my month in books: what I read, a very short summary, and my rating out of five stars. The plan is to have a list of books that will hopefully inspire you to pick one of them up. I’ll link you up to any reviews I’ve written, and also the Goodreads page for each book, so you can find out more about any that take your fancy.

  • Chocolat – Joanne Harris – 4 stars A beautifully written novel set in a little French town, depicting a passive-aggressive battle between the legalism of the local church and the tempting luxury of the new chocolatier.
  • Unwind – Neal Shusterman – 4 stars A creepy YA Dystopian that follows the stories of young teenagers who are donated by their parents to a company who will ‘unwind’ them and re-distribute their body parts to other people.
  • Le Petit Prince – Antoine de Saint-Exupery A short (and very weird) children’s book full of philosophical ‘thought-provokers’ (also available in English)
  • Burn – Ted Dekker, Erin Healy – 4 stars Another creepy read! After a fire in a gypsy camp wipes out nearly all of her family, Janeal faces the aftermath, rebuilding her life and ultimately having to make the choice between the good and evil forces at work.
  • The Little Coffee Shop of Kabul – Deborah Rodriguez – 5 stars The hard-hitting story of five very different women becoming unlikely friends in the context of the conflict in Afghanistan (I reviewed this here!)
  • Dracula – Bram Stoker – 4 stars The original vampire horror novel! A timelessly chilling account of the infamous Count Dracula faced by the only five men in England who actually believe in his existence.
  • The Help – Kathryn Stockett – 5 stars The moving story of three women living in 1960’s Jackson, Mississippi and their struggles against the poisonous racism. (This was my Book of the Month!)
  • Northanger Abbey – Jane Austen – 4 stars A particularly accessible Austen story that tells a pretty romance with a refreshing amount of humour and satire. Especially recommended for any first-time Jane Austen readers.
  • My Classy Life and Other Musings – Ron Burgundy – 4 stars The beloved character from comedy movie ‘Anchorman’ blesses the world with his hilarious and completely character-appropriate autobiography. (Did I mention this was hilarious?)

And that was January! If you’ve read any of these books, let me know what you thought of them. Hopefully you were inspired by one or two of these titles – and if not, there’s always next month!

Thanks for reading and have a lovely day.

~Dani